Posts Tagged ‘blessed is the fruit of your womb’

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, May 31, 2017

May 30, 2017

Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Lectionary: 572

Image may contain: 3 people, people standing

Art: Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary by Domenico Ghirlandaio

Reading 1  ZEP 3:14-18A

Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!
Sing joyfully, O Israel!
Be glad and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!
The LORD has removed the judgment against you,
he has turned away your enemies;
The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst,
you have no further misfortune to fear.
On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged!
The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a mighty savior;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
and renew you in his love,
He will sing joyfully because of you,
as one sings at festivals.

Or  ROM 12:9-16

Brothers and sisters:
Let love be sincere;
hate what is evil,
hold on to what is good;
love one another with mutual affection;
anticipate one another in showing honor.
Do not grow slack in zeal,
be fervent in spirit,
serve the Lord.
Rejoice in hope,
endure in affliction,
persevere in prayer.
Contribute to the needs of the holy ones,
exercise hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you,
bless and do not curse them.
Rejoice with those who rejoice,
weep with those who weep.
Have the same regard for one another;
do not be haughty but associate with the lowly;
do not be wise in your own estimation.

Responsorial Psalm  ISAIAH 12:2-3, 4BCD, 5-6

R. (6) Among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.
God indeed is my savior;
I am confident and unafraid.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
With joy you will draw water
at the fountain of salvation.
R. Among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.
Give thanks to the LORD, acclaim his name;
among the nations make known his deeds,
proclaim how exalted is his name.
R. Among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.
Sing praise to the LORD for his glorious achievement;
let this be known throughout all the earth.
Shout with exultation, O city of Zion,
for great in your midst
is the Holy One of Israel!
R. Among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.

Alleluia SEE LK 1:45

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, O Virgin Mary, who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 1:39-56

Mary set out
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Most blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”

And Mary said:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.”

Mary remained with her about three months
and then returned to her home.

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Homily Ideas for The Visitation
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Today’s feast celebrates the special place that Mary has in the life of the Church. This place is first of all defined by her being chosen to be the mother of Jesus, his only human parent. This alone gives her a uniqueness which is shared by no other person who has ever lived.

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As with the case of Jesus’ resurrection, we need to look at the meaning of what the feast is about rather than being too literal in our understanding of how it is described in scripture.

Today’s Gospel is the story of Mary’s visitation to her cousin, Elizabeth, when both were expecting their first child. The story contains most of the elements which contribute to the status we give to Mary in our Church.

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First, we see Mary setting out with haste from Nazareth to a small town in the hills of Judea, not far from Jerusalem (where Zechariah served as a priest in the Temple), to visit her older cousin, Elizabeth, who was pregnant with the child we know as John the Baptist. Mary herself, of course, is carrying her own child, Jesus. It is highly significant that it is Mary and Jesus who go to visit Elizabeth and John. Already in the womb, Jesus is showing that urge to serve rather than be served. Mary, too, shares that urge. And, at the presence of Jesus and his mother, the child in Elizabeth’s womb jumps for joy.

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Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, excitedly bursts out into praise. She recognises the special position of Mary and her Son: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Mary is indeed unique and blessed in being chosen to be the mother of our saving King and Lord. Elizabeth is deeply moved that it is Jesus and his Mother that come to her and John: “And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?” And yet that is what is happening to each of us all the time, and especially in every celebration of the Eucharist when the Lord comes to us in the sharing of his Word and in the breaking of the bread and our sharing in the cup.

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And there is a special word of praise for Mary also: “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” This brings us to the second characteristic of Mary: her faith and total trust in God. That was expressed in her fiat (‘Let it be done to me…’), when, even though not fully understanding what was being asked of her, she unconditionally accepted to submit to God’s plan.

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It is now Mary’s turn to sing God’s praises in the lovely song we called the Magnificat, which the Church sings at its evening prayer every day. It is full of reflections on what makes Mary great in the eyes of God.

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“He has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.”

Mary was a simple unmarried girl living in obscurity in a small town in an out of the way Roman province.

“Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

Mary’s greatness was not just in being chosen to be Jesus’ mother but in her total acceptance of that responsibility in faith and trust, accepting blindly all that it might entail. And, indeed, she had no idea the price she would have to pay to be the mother of Jesus. But, again, like her Son she had emptied herself in total service to him and to day we celebrate her reward, her being raised to the highest place among the human race.

In the human race we see today, perhaps we have forgotten how to full appreciate and protect human life.

We need to constantly look to Mary and Joseph who never question God’s plan — but fully accept what they have been chosen to do.

May we do the same with half as much fidelity. That would be a miracle for me!

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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31 MAY, 2017, Wednesday, Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
THE LORD IS IN OUR MIDST IN THE HOLY SPIRIT

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ZEPH 3:14-18 or ROM 12:9-16; LUKE 1:39-56 ]

The scripture readings of today’s feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary underscore the presence of God in our midst.  Whenever the Lord is in our midst, there will always be joy and celebration.  In the first reading, the prophet Zephaniah said, “Shout for joy, daughter of Zion, Israel, shout aloud! Rejoice, exult with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem!”  In the gospel too, we read how the Lord came into the lives of Mary, Elizabeth and John the Baptist.  Again, the theme of joy is prevalent.  “Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit … For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy.’”

Indeed, the cause of sorrow is always the absence of God in our lives.  We become discouraged when God is not present in our midst.  Our hearts are made for God.  When life is lived without God, there is a vacuum in our hearts.  That is why the psalmist cried out, “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.” (Ps 42:1)  Whether we admit it or not, our soul seeks union with God.  When a soul lives in sin, it knows that God is absent.  We feel His absence when we know that we are living immoral lives or lack integrity in our lives.  Knowing that we are not living a blameless life, we condemn ourselves being hypocritical.

The other cause of sorrow is when we feel quite alone in our struggles.   This was the case of the Israelites.  They felt that they were alone and helpless against their enemies.  But God was with them!  They did not have to go through all this alone. The prophet assured them, “The Lord, the king of Israel, is in your midst; you have no more evil to fear.  The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior.”  God assured them of His love and presence.  Most of all, the Lord would be their warrior.  He would be the One who would rescue them from their enemies and help them to return from exile.

How, then, can we once again bring back the presence of God into our lives?  We need to welcome the Holy Spirit.  He is the presence of God.  The gospel of Luke, which is the gospel of the Holy Spirit, always associates joy with the coming of the Holy Spirit.  Mary was filled with joy because of the Holy Spirit overshadowing her and the baby Jesus.  She was filled with the Holy Spirit when she sang the Magnificat. Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out with joy and so did John the Baptist who leapt for joy.  Anyone who is filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit is filled with joy.  This explains why those who are prayed over for the awakening of the Holy Spirit often are overwhelmed by the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit.  Of course, the Holy Spirit can come in many other ways as well, as illustrated in the scriptures.  Indeed, it is appropriate for us during this 7th Week of Easter, as we prepare for the feast of Pentecost, to emphasize the importance of the Holy Spirit and welcome Him as Mary did at the Upper Room.

One way of experiencing the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit is in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Celebrating the sacrament of reconciliation always releases the burden of years of guilt and pain.   Many of us, because of the fear of confession due to our pride, carry these fears in our hearts, the fear of coming before God because of our sins; and the fear of man because of shame.  In the Magnificat Mary warns us that God will bring down the mighty from their thrones.  Unfortunately, many are not making use of this most beautiful Sacrament given by the Church.  We take note that the peace of Easter given to the apostles was followed by the power to forgive sins through the gift of the Holy Spirit. “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (Jn 20:22f)  Having our sins forgiven is a necessary prerequisite to receiving the fullness of the Holy Spirit, as the apostles remind us.

The second way to rediscover the presence of God is forgiveness of our enemies.  Many have no peace in their hearts because they refuse to let go of those people who have hurt them.  They keep the pain caused by betrayals or harsh words buried deep in their hearts.  They cannot let go of their resentment and anger against those who have humiliated them.  Without letting our enemies go, we remain prisoners of the past.  Hence, we cannot find peace.  Indeed, many are not free and have no deep joy in their hearts simply because they did not take heed of the words of St Paul, “Bless those who persecute you: never curse them, bless them.”   We must be ready to let go of our hurts and bless our enemies if we are to overcome the hatred in our hearts.  Forgiveness will liberate us for the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The lack of forgiveness hinders us from receiving the fullness of the Holy Spirit because He is the Gift of God’s love in person.

Thirdly, the Holy Spirit also comes to us through acts of kindness and genuine love.  St Paul says, “Treat everyone with equal kindness; never be condescending but make real friends with the poor.”  That was what Mary did after the annunciation.  Immediately, filled with joy, she did not keep the joy within her.  Rather, she brought her joy to Elizabeth who was pregnant in her advanced age.   Her thoughtfulness came from the joy within her.  In sharing that joy, her joy doubled.  St Paul urges us also to identify with those who are in need and give them empathy and support, for by so doing, we share and partake in the joy of the Holy Spirit.  Again, St Paul exhorts us, “if any of the saints are in need you must share with them; and you should make hospitality your special care.”  Through genuine hospitality and care, we bring the presence of God to others.

Fourthly, from Mary, we learn the importance of fraternal support from the community.  Encountering the love of God is always within and through the community.  That is why St Paul urges us to “Love each other as much as brothers should, and have a profound respect for each other.”  Mary could have kept to herself, but upon knowing that her cousin needed help, she went out of the way to see her and stayed with her for three months.  Mary saw the need of community and that was why she was with the apostles in the Upper Room, giving them encouragement and strength when Jesus returned to the Father.  Many Catholics miss out on the presence of God because they do not have fellowship with their fellow Catholics. They are alone in their faith, without any support.  What they must do is to reach out and find a community to which they can belong, not just for social fellowship but one that can offer them spiritual support through prayer and sharing of the Word of God.

Fifthly, from Mary, we learn that the way to welcome the Holy Spirit is through expectant prayer.  That was what Mary did, together with the apostles. “All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.”  (Acts 1:14). In the Magnificat, she urges us to be receptive and docile to God through a spirit of poverty.  St Paul also urges us to pray often, especially in times of trial, for this is where we can experience the power of the Holy Spirit helping us.  Mary did not simply pray, but she prayed with faith.  This was what Elizabeth said of her.  “Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”   So if we want to receive the Holy Spirit, we need to pray with faith and with fervor.

Finally, the Holy Spirit is seen in and through the mighty deeds of God.  With Mary and the psalmist, we must sing the Magnificat often in our lives.  In praising and glorifying God, we remember His presence in our lives.  The psalmist urges us to “Make his mighty deeds known to the peoples! Declare the greatness of his name.” Mary in the Magnificat spontaneously gave thanks to God. “All generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me.” In rendering thanks to God and thanksgiving, we recount His goodness and mercy.  By so doing, we will not forget the presence and love of God in our lives.  When our prayers are only petitions, they become weak as they are based only on hope; whereas in thanksgiving, our prayers are more certain as our hope is based on the past actions of God.  It is our hope that through our service to others, we can bring the love of God to them.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Magnificat
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My soul doth magnify: the Lord. And my spirit hath rejoiced: in God my Saviour. For He hath regarded the humility of his handmaid: for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For He that is mighty hath done great things unto me: and holy is his name.
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And his mercy is from generation to generation: unto them that fear Him. He hath shewed strength with his arm: He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their heart. He hath put down the mighty from their seat: and hath exalted the humble. He hath filled the hungry with good things: and the rich He hath sent empty away.
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He hath upholden his servant Israel: being mindful of his mercy. As He spake unto our fathers: to Abraham and his seed for ever. Glory be to the Father, etc.
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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14 AUGUST 2016, Sunday, The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary*
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ASSUMPTION CELEBRATES THE GRACE OF CERTAIN VICTORY

SCRIPTURE READINGS:

[  REV 11:19; 12:1-6.10; 1 CORINTHIANS 15:20-26; LUKE 1:39-56 ]

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Life on this earth is always a battle between good and evil as we read in the first reading. In the book of Revelation, we read how the Church, represented by the woman, was harassed by the Evil One, represented by the huge red dragon.  This woman of course also represents Mary, the Mother of the Church.  The reality is that all of us are fighting against evil all the time.  Day in and day out, we are being challenged to remain faithful to the gospel values.  At times, we are able to overcome the temptations of the Evil One.  But there are also many times when we succumb to his temptations. The more we try to be faithful to the gospel, the more we fall.  This can be rather trying and disappointing, especially when we have just gone for a good confession.  Indeed, the Devil wants us to give up trying to be good and holy. He wants us to feel discouraged and condemn ourselves as hopeless recalcitrants.

When we feel defeated and want to give up fighting against evil, we can take courage on this solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The promise of final victory over the Evil One is most consoling.  We read in the first reading, “The woman brought a male child into the world, the son who was to rule all the nations with an iron scepter, and the child was taken straight up to God and to his throne.  Then I heard a voice shout from heaven, Victory and power and empire for ever have been won by our God and all authority for his Christ.”  Jesus Christ truly has won victory for us and He has conquered the Evil One.  So we need not feel that we have lost the battle against the Devil. Rather, our faith remains in Christ who has won that victory for us.

This certain victory has been claimed for Mary, for we read that “the woman escaped into the desert, where God had made a place of safety ready.”  This is what the Assumption is celebrating; that Mary has now shared in the glorification of our Lord.  She was given the special privilege of sharing the fullness of resurrection that has already been anticipated in Christ.  She is now in heaven waiting for the rest of the Church, the Body of Christ to join her.  While she remains there, she is also interceding for the Church so that the full body of Christ can be complete.   The assumption of Mary therefore is meant to be a source of hope for the Church, that where she is, we will be there too; and that we too will share in the glorification of the body when we die.

Our destiny after death is clear.  Unlike many in the world who fear death because it is seen as annihilation, we need not fear death because death has been overcome forever in the resurrection of Christ.  St Paul says that Christ “must be king until he has put all his enemies under his feet and the last of the enemies to be destroyed is death, for everything is to be put under his feet.”  Death, which is the cause of every sin on this earth and gives rise to selfishness and self-preservation, having been conquered once and for all by Christ dying to death and rising again, gives us confidence not to fear death as well.  We now know for certain that death is not the final word, or hatred and selfishness brought upon by death.  Love conquers death because love is stronger even than death.  Even after death, when we love someone, love lives on.  Nothing can overcome the power of love in terms of passion and in terms of time.  It is God’s love for us in Christ that overcomes death forever.

Mary’s assumption is the guarantee of our sharing in the resurrection.  Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, and Mary’s assumption of body and soul into heaven, we know where we will also be after death.  St Paul makes it clear that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is “the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep. Death came through one man and in the same way the resurrection of the dead has come through one man. Just as all men die in Adam, so all men will be brought to life in Christ; but all of them in their proper order: Christ as the first-fruits and then, after the coming of Christ, those who belong to him.”

So this feast of Mary’s assumption is an important celebration to remind us that we should not subscribe to the materialistic world view that like the rest of the creatures on earth, when we die, we will be reduced to nothing or that we would be left with only an immortal soul.  Rather, Christian faith affirms the value of the body and hence the glorification of the body after death.  As human beings, we are constituted of body and soul; and whilst separated temporally at death, our body and soul will be reunited on the last day.

Accordingly, when we celebrate the feast of the Assumption of our Blessed Mother, we need also to share with her the life she lived in Christ if we are to share in the resurrection as well.  If Mary was granted that privilege of sharing the resurrection of Christ before us, it was because she was sinless and intimately shared in the suffering of Christ on the cross. Mary was associated with Jesus in His redemptive work right from the beginning of her fiat to God’s will and throughout her life until the death of Christ on the cross, where she surrendered her only Son to the Father.  Beyond His death, Mary, given to the Church as the Mother when Christ was glorified at His death, played the role of giving encouragement to the primitive Church at prayer, interceding for her.

Concretely this means being receptive to grace, like Mary, all the time.  Salvation is not the work of man but principally the work of God.  That is why the Assumption of Mary is called a privilege, not a merit that Mary gained for her work.  It is purely a gift from God on account of God’s generosity.  The Church perceived it as fitting for her to be glorified based on tradition and scripture.  This was what Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my saviour; because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid. Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me.”  Her blessedness is purely due to God’s mercy and grace.

Mary is called ‘full of grace’ because God has not only bestowed upon her grace, but she has always been receptive to grace all her life.  In truth, God too has given us His grace but we are not always that responsive.  When we fail to be docile and receptive to His grace, this is where we fail and fall.  If we lack docility to His grace, it is because, unlike Mary, we are proud and arrogant.  This is what Mary again said, “He has shown the power of his arm, he has routed the proud of heart. He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away.”  Humility is the way to obtain the grace of God to live a holy and blessed life.  Pride has been the downfall of the Devil and so is ours.  Many of us rebel against God, thinking we know everything instead of obeying His divine will for us.

So today, let is in faith cling to God’s promise given to Mary, realized in her and also given to us.  We need to be like Mary – carry Jesus in our hearts as she did in both her womb and her heart.  Like Mary, we are called to never doubt in God’s love and forgiveness but ”believe in the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”   Indeed, during this year of mercy, “He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy – according to the promise he made to our ancestors – of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

*Traditionally the Assumption of the B.V.M is celebrated on 15 August. By decree of The Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei this solemnity is being celebrated on Sunday, 14 August this year.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, December 21, 2013 — To find true joy and peace, we must find the Lord

December 20, 2013

File:Champaigne visitation.jpg

Elizabeth (left) visited by Mary, the Visitation, by Philippe de Champaigne

Saturday of the Third Week of Advent Lectionary: 197

Reading 1 Sg 2:8-14

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Hark! my lover–here he comes springing across the mountains, leaping across the hills. My lover is like a gazelle or a young stag. Here he stands behind our wall, gazing through the windows, peering through the lattices. My lover speaks; he says to me, “Arise, my beloved, my dove, my beautiful one, and come! “For see, the winter is past, the rains are over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of pruning the vines has come, and the song of the dove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines, in bloom, give forth fragrance. Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come!
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“O my dove in the clefts of the rock, in the secret recesses of the cliff, Let me see you, let me hear your voice, For your voice is sweet, and you are lovely.”
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.Or Zep 3:14-18a

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Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The LORD has removed the judgment against you, he has turned away your enemies; The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear. On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem: Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged! The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, He will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals.

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Responsorial Psalm PS 33:2-3, 11-12, 20-21

R. (1a; 3a) Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song. Give thanks to the LORD on the harp; with the ten-stringed lyre chant his praises. Sing to him a new song; pluck the strings skillfully, with shouts of gladness. R. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song. But the plan of the LORD stands forever; the design of his heart, through all generations. Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he has chosen for his own inheritance. R. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song. Our soul waits for the LORD, who is our help and our shield, For in him our hearts rejoice; in his holy name we trust. R. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.

Gospel Lk 1:39-45

Mary set out in those days and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
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The Visitation, from Altarpiece of the Virgin by Jacques Daret, 1434-1435.
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The infant in my womb leaped for joy. The Lord Jesus and the good news are a treasure not only to be possessed but to be shared. Those who have truly received Jesus in faith know that he is for the life of the world, the world that needs him badly. So they go out to share to others the grace they have received.

We can see this in our Blessed Mother Mary. After she receives Jesus in her heart and in her womb, she travels in haste to a town of Judah, to visit her relative Elizabeth. She brings to Elizabeth and her son, John, not only the words of the good news but the Word made flesh in her womb. What a marvelous effect her visit produces! The Holy Spirit comes down upon Elizabeth at the sound of Mary’s voice. She is enlightened regarding Mary, whom she calls “the mother of my Lord”! She rejoices and so does John who is still in her womb.

Those who bear Jesus and the good news bring grace and joy to people.

SOURCE: “366 Days with the Lord 2012,” ST. PAULS Philippines, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: books@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection.Luke stresses the readiness of Mary in serving, in being a handmaid. The Angel speaks about the pregnancy of Elizabeth and immediately, Mary rises and sets out as quickly as she could to go and help her. From Nazareth to the house of Elizabeth there were more than 100 km, the minimum, four days of travelling!, There were no buses, no trains. Mary begins to serve and fulfils her mission in behalf of the people of God..Elizabeth represents the Old Testament which was about to end. Mary represents the New Testament. The Old Testament accepts the New one with gratitude and trust, recognizing in it God’s gratuitous gift which is going to be realized and is going to complete the expectation of people. In the encounter of the two women is manifested the gift of the Spirit. The child leapt with joy in Elizabeth’s womb. This is the reading of the faith which Elizabeth makes of the things of life..The Good News of God reveals his presence in the most common things of human life: two house wives who visit each other to mutually help one another. Visit, joy, pregnancy, children, mutual help, house, family: Luke wants us and the community to perceive precisely this and that we discover in this God’s presence..

Elizabeth says to Mary: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Up until today, these words form part of the best known Psalm and most prayed in the whole world, “The Hail Mary”. • “And blessed is she who has believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled”. This is the praise of Elizabeth to Mary and the message of Luke for the community: to believe in the Word of God, because the Word of God has the force to fulfil all that which it tells us. It is a creative Word. It generates new life in the womb of the Virgin, in the womb of people who accept it with faith.

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Mary and Elizabeth already knew one another. But in this encounter, they discover, one in one another, a mystery which they had not known as yet, and which fills them with great joy. Today also, we meet persons who surprise us because of the wisdom they possess and the witness of faith that they give. Has something similar happened to you already? Have you met persons who have surprised you? What prevents us from discovering and from living the joy of God’s presence in our life?

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The attitude of Mary before the Word expresses the ideal which Luke wants to communicate to the Community: do not close yourselves in self, but get out of self, be attentive to the concrete needs of persons and try to help others as far as possible according to their need.

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Personal questions

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Placing myself in the place of Mary and Elizabeth: am I capable to perceive and experience the presence of God in the most simple and common things in the life of every day?

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The praise of Elizabeth to Mary: “You have believed!” Her husband had difficulty to believe what the angel was telling him. And I?

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Concluding Prayer

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We are waiting for Yahweh; he is our help and our shield, for in him our heart rejoices, in his holy name we trust. (Ps 33,20-21)

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http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-luke-139-45

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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How are you feeling today?  Are you feeling happy?  Is there joy in your heart?  Or are you feeling sad and downcast?  What is the reason for your sadness? The cause of sadness is always the lack of love and peace in our lives.  Joy and peace is lacking because God is absent in our lives.  Hence, the liturgy is assuring us that God is coming into our lives very soon.

Like the lover in today’s first reading, God is yearning to see us.  The impatience of the man waiting to see his beloved expresses God’s passionate love for us.  Indeed in the bible, the love of God for humanity is always described in terms of a nuptial love, a marriage between Yahweh and Israel.  In the New Testament, Jesus is called the bridegroom and the Church, His bride.  So intimate is God’s love for us that He longs for us to share in His love.

Thus, being in love and the thought of being with our beloved cannot but fill us with joy even during the time of waiting.  When one is in love and when one is meeting one’s beloved, one cannot but be filled with joy, simply knowing that we can hold our beloved in our arms and be embraced by his or her love.  The time of waiting is a time of yearning and pining.  It is one of excitement and joy.

This too was the experience of Mary, Elizabeth and John the Baptist.  We read that Mary, after receiving the message from the angel, went in haste to share with Elizabeth the Good News of the coming of the Messiah.  Elizabeth too, when she heard Mary’s greeting, gave a loud cry and said, “Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord?”  John the Baptist too “leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” just as King David danced for joy when he received the Ark of the Covenant. (cf 2 Sm 6) So all of them were all dancing for joy at the thought of the coming of the Saviour. They could not contain the joy of the prospect that at last the Messiah was coming.

What about us?  Are you looking forward to Christmas?  You might, but perhaps you are looking forward to some merry-making and receiving some Christmas gifts, but you are not looking forward to having Christ born in your heart!  How sad it would be to celebrate Christmas without the birthday boy!  Without Christ coming into our hearts, how can we experience the love of God being poured into our hearts?  And without His love, there can be no joy and no peace since love is the origin of joy and peace.

It is therefore urgent to confront the emptiness and despondency of our hearts.  We need to fill it not with things and with activities and festivities but with the love, joy and peace of Christ.  We need to be quiet and seek Him as we approach the feast of Christmas.   We must enter into the longing of the lover waiting for his beloved to come.  Unless we long for God to come into our lives, He will not come.  The beloved will not impose His love on us.

How then can we fill the vacuum in our hearts?  The scripture readings instruct us that in the first place, joy is born of hope and hope is born of a promise.   Because of a promise, we can look forward each day in hope.  Like a young couple awaiting their marriage day, or their child that is to be born, or a young man his graduation day, or a poor family of financial assistance or a terminally ill person of a cure, that person cannot but be filled with joy, provided that hope is a certain hope.  Truly, when hope is a substantiated hope, unlike a vain hope for something to happen, one is infused with joy already.  Christian hope is based on a promise made by God Himself and that is why we know that this promise would be fulfilled.  And because of a promise made to us, joy is already in us even while waiting for the hope to be fulfilled.  

Consequently, to enter into this joy, we must believe.  Mary believed that God is faithful and trustworthy.  She knew that God will always be true to His promise as she sang in the Magnificat, “He protects Israel, his servant, remembering his mercy, the mercy promised to our fathers, to Abraham and his sons forever.”  Mary also believed in the Word spoken to her.  Relying on the promise of God through the angel, she consented to do His will in spite of all the uncertainties and challenges ahead of her.  She committed herself to do His will, believing that He will make all things possible, regardless of the sufferings and persecutions she would have to go through.  This faith is summed up in the response of Elizabeth, “Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”  Mary believed that God could do the impossible, and much more than we can imagine and understand.  With God all things are possible to those who have faith.  She remembered the exhortation of the angel Gabriel.

How do we know that we have believed?  Not by words but by the fruits of faith.  Anyone who believes in the promise of God will begin to reach out to others.  So in the case of Mary, she immediately went to assure Elizabeth of the truth of God’s message, for Elizabeth too must be strengthened in her faith that she was no longer barren.  Both gave each other support in believing the miracle that was happening to both of them.  Together they could affirm that whether one is barren or a virgin, God could accomplish the impossible in human reckoning.

If we have faith, we too, must encourage others in their faith.  Like Mary, we must bring hope to others, especially those who are facing crises in their personal life, those who have given up on God or on love because of the tragedies they are going through as a consequence of failed relationships, betrayals, infidelity or sickness and misfortunes in their life.  In solidarity with them, we must help them to cling to God’s promise by helping them to find faith in Christ again, who is their hope, joy and peace.  Are you bearing fruits of love like Mary by bringing Christ to others, or by being Christ to others so that they too can leap for joy in encountering God’s love?

In the final analysis, to find true joy and peace, we must find the Lord.  We must be reconciled with Him by allowing Him to be the Lord of our lives.  Have we gone for the Sacrament of reconciliation?  Have we sincerely confessed all our sins in humility and with contrition?  Have we made time to allow Jesus, the Word to be conceived in our hearts and take flesh in our life?  Like the psalmist then we should pray, “Our soul waits for the Lord, who is our help and our shield, for in him our hearts rejoice; in his holy name we trust.”

If He seems to be slow in coming, then know that sometimes, like the beloved, the Lord is “hiding in the clefts of the rock” so that He could expand our desire for Him when we begin the search for Him in desperation and earnestness.  The greater our desire, the greater the capacity to receive; the greater the joy we will have.  So in fervent prayer, we beg the Lord, “Show me your face! Let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet and your face is beautiful.”  If we are sincere in wanting His love, He will come and show us His face and pour His love on us.

When that day happens, you will, like all God’s people, exult and sing for joy for He will turn your mourning into joy (Ps 30:12).  Truly, when God’s love is with us, then we can say, “winter is past, the rains are over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth. The season of glad songs has come, the cooing of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree is forming its first figs and the blossoming vines give out their fragrance.”  How great is our God indeed!  How great is His love for us that He would deign to live in us and not just in our midst!

http://www.csctr.net/reflections/

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Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, August 15, 2013

August 15, 2013

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Mass during the Day Lectionary: 622

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Art: The Assumption of Mary into Heaven by Rubens (“De hemelvaart van Maria” circa 1626)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assumption_of_Mary

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Reading 1 Rv 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab

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God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple.
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A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth. Then another sign appeared in the sky; it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads were seven diadems. Its tail swept away a third of the stars in the sky and hurled them down to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth, to devour her child when she gave birth. She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod. Her child was caught up to God and his throne. The woman herself fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God.
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Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have salvation and power come, and the Kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed One.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 45:10, 11, 12, 16

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R. (10bc) The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold. The queen takes her place at your right hand in gold of Ophir. R. The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold. Hear, O daughter, and see; turn your ear, forget your people and your father’s house. R. The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold. So shall the king desire your beauty; for he is your lord. R. The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold. They are borne in with gladness and joy; they enter the palace of the king. R. The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold.
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Reading 2 1 Cor 15:20-27

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Brothers and sisters: Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through man, the resurrection of the dead came also through man. For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order: Christ the firstfruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ; then comes the end, when he hands over the Kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death, for “he subjected everything under his feet.”
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Gospel Lk 1:39-56

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Mary set out at that time and went as quickly as she could into the hill country to a town in Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now it happened that as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? Look, the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’ And Mary said: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour; because he has looked upon the humiliation of his servant. Yes, from now onwards all generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me. Holy is his name, and his faithful love extends age after age to those who fear him. He has used the power of his arm, he has routed the arrogant of heart. He has pulled down princes from their thrones and raised high the lowly. He has filled the starving with good things, sent the rich away empty. He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his faithful love -according to the promise he made to our ancestors — of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever. Mary stayed with her some three months and then went home.
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Moments of prayerful silence:
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Silence is a quality of the one who knows how to listen to God. Try to create in yourself an atmosphere of peace and of silent adoration. If you are capable to be in silence before God, you will be able to listen to his breath which is Life.
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MEDITATIO
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Key to the Reading:
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Blessed are you among women
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In the first part of today’s Gospel, the words of Elizabeth resound: “Blessed are you among women”, preceded by a spatial movement. Mary leaves Nazareth, situated in the North of Palestine, to go to the South, approximately fifty kilometres, to a place which tradition has identified as the present day Ain Karem, not too far from Jerusalem. The physical movement shows the interior sensibility of Mary, who is not closed on herself, to contemplate, in a private and intimate way, the mystery of the Divine Maternity which is being accomplished in her, but she is projected to the path of charity. She moves in order to go and help her elderly cousin. Mary’s going to Elizabeth has the added connotation ‘in haste’ which Saint Ambrose interprets as follows: “Mary set out in haste to the hill country, not because she did not believe the prophecy or because she was uncertain of the announcement or doubted of the proof, but because she was pleased with the promise and desirous to devotedly fulfil a service, with the impulse that she received from her intimate joy… The grace of the Holy Spirit does not entail slowness”. The reader, though, knows that the true reason of the trip is not indicated, but can get it through information deduced from the context. The angel had communicated to Mary the pregnancy of Elizabeth, already in the sixth month (cfr. v. 37). Besides the fact that she remained there three months (cfr. v. 56), just the time so that the child could be born, allows us to understand that Mary intended to help her cousin. Mary runs, and goes where there is an urgent need, the need for help, showing, in this way, a clear sensibility and concrete availability.
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Together with Mary, Jesus, in his mother’s womb, moves with her. From here it is easy to deduce the Christological value of the episode of the visit of Mary to her cousin: above all, the attention is for Jesus. At first sight, it could seem to be a scene concentrated on the two women, in reality, what is important for the Evangelist is the prodigious fact present in their conceiving. Mary moving tends, in last instance, to have the encounter between the two women.
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As soon as Mary enters into the house and greets Elizabeth, the small John leaped in her womb. According to some this leaping is not comparable to the changing place of the foetus, which is experienced by every pregnant woman. Luke uses a particular Greek verb which precisely means “jumping”. Wishing to interpret the verb a bit literally, it could be indicated with “dancing”, thus excluding a physical phenomenon only. Someone has thought that this ‘dance’ could be considered as a form of ‘homage’ which John renders to Jesus, inaugurating, though not yet born, that attitude of respect and of subjection which will characterize his life: “After me is coming someone who is more powerful than me, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals” (Mk 1, 7). One day, John himself will give witness: “it is the bridegroom who has the bride; and yet the bridegroom’s friend, who stands there and listens to him, is filled with joy at the bridegroom’s voice. This is the joy that I feel and it is complete. He must grow greater, I must grow less” (Jn 3, 29-30). Thus Saint Ambrose comments: “Elizabeth was the first one to hear the voice, but John is first to perceive the grace”. We find a confirmation of this interpretation in the words themselves of Elizabeth which, repeating the same Greek verb in v. 44. which was already employed in v. 41, says: “The child in my womb leapt for joy”. Luke, with these particular details, has wished to evoke the prodigies which took place in the intimacy of Nazareth. It is only now, thanks to the dialogue with an interlocutor, the mystery of the divine maternity leaves aside its secrecy and its individual dimension, to become a notable fact, and object of appreciation and of praise.
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The words of Elizabeth, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb! Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord?” (vv. 42-43). With a Semitic expression which is equivalent to a superlative (“among women”), the Evangelist wishes to attract the attention of the reader on the function of Mary: to be the “Mother of the Lord”. And, then, a blessing is reserved for her (“Blessed are you”) and a blessed Beatitude. In what does this one consist? It expresses Mary’s adherence to the Divine Will. Mary is not only the receiver of a mysterious design which makes her blessed, but also a person who knows how to accept and adhere to God’s will. Mary is a creature who believes, because she trusts in a plain, simple word and which she has vested with her “yes” of love. And Elizabeth acknowledges this service of love, identifying her as “blessed as mother and blessed as believer”.
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In the meantime, John perceives the presence of his Lord and exults, expressing with that interior movement the joy which springs from that contact of salvation. Mary will be the interpreter of that event in the hymn of the Magnificat.
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A song of love:
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In this song Mary considers herself part of the anawim, of the “poor of God”, of those who “fear God” placing in Him all their trust and hope and who, on the human level, do not enjoy any right or prestige. The spirituality of the anawim can be synthesized with the words of Psalm 37, 79: “In silence he is before God and hopes in him”, because “those who hope in the Lord will possess the earth”.
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In Psalm 86, 6 the one who prays, turning to God says: Give your servant your force”: Here the term ‘servant’ expresses his being subjected, as well as the sentiment of belonging to God, of feeling secure with him. The poor, in the strictly Biblical sense, are those who place their trust unconditionally in God; this is why they are to be considered, qualitatively, the best part, of the People of Israel. The proud, instead, are those who place all their trust in themselves. Now, according to the Magnificat, the poor have a thousand reasons to rejoice, because God glorifies the anawim (Psalm 149, 4) and humbles the proud.
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An image taken from the New Testament, which expresses very well the attitude of the poor of the Old Testament, is that of the Publican who with humility beats his breast, while the Pharisee being complacent of his merits is being consumed by his pride (Lk 19, 9-14). Definitively, Mary celebrates all that God has done in her and all that he works in every creature. Joy and gratitude characterize this hymn to salvation which recognizes the greatness of God, but which also makes great the one who sings it.
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Some question for meditation:
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Is my prayer, above all, the expression of a sentiment or celebration and acknowledgement of God’s action?
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Mary is presented as the believer in the Word of the Lord. How much time do I dedicate to listening to the Word of God?
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Is your prayer nourished from the Bible, as was that of Mary? Or rather am I dedicated to devotions which produce a continuous tasteless and dull prayer? Are you convinced that to return to Biblical prayer is the assurance to find a solid nourishment, chosen by Mary herself ?
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Are you in the logics of the Magnificat which exalts the joy of giving, of losing in order to find, of accepting, the happiness of gratuity, of donation?
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ORATIO
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Psalm 44 (45)
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The Psalm in this second part, glorifies the Queen. In today’s Liturgy these verses are applied to Mary and celebrate her greatness and beauty.
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In your retinue are daughters of kings, the consort at your right hand in gold of Ophir.
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Listen, my daughter, attend to my words and hear; forget your own nation and your ancestral home, then the king will fall in love with your beauty; he is your lord, bow down before him.
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Her companions are brought to her, they enter the king’s palace with joy and rejoicing.
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Final Prayer:
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The prayer which follows is a brief meditation on the maternal role of Mary in the life of the believer: “Mary, woman who knows how to rejoice, who knows how to exult, who allows herself to be invaded by the full consolation of the Holy Spirit, teach us to pray so that we may also discover the source of joy. In Elizabeth’s house, your cousin, feeling accepted and understood in your most intimate secret, you burst out in a hymn of exultation of the heart, speaking of God, of you about your relationship with him, and of the unprecedented adventure already begun of being the Mother of Christ and of all of us, holy people of God. Teach us to give our prayer a rhythm of hope and tremors of joy, sometimes worn out by bitter whining and soaked with melancholy almost as obliged.
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The Gospel speaks to us about you, Mary, and of Elizabeth: both of you kept in your heart something, which you did not dare or you did not wish to manifest to anyone. But each one of you, felt understood by the other, on that prophetic day of the Visitation and you pronounced words of prayer and of feast. Your encounter becomes Liturgy of thanksgiving and of praise to your ineffable God. You, woman of a profound joy, you sang the Magnificat, in rapture and amazed at all that the Lord was operating in his humble servant. Magnificat is the cry, the explosion of joy, which explodes within each one of us, when one feels accepted and understood”.
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CONTEMPLATIO
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The Virgin Mary, the temple of the Holy Spirit, accepted with faith the Word and surrendered herself completely to the power of Love. Because of this she became the Icon of interiority, that is all recollected under the look of God and abandoned to the power of the Most High. Mary keeps silence about herself, because everything in her can speak about the wonders of the Lord in her life.
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Related:
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Mary is the best example of giving oneself completely and without question to the Will of God — and living a life driven by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
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The first words of the Gospel of Luke 4 are: “Jesus, with the power of the Holy Spirit….”

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Wouldn’t it be great if we mere mortals could harness the Power of the Holy Spirit?

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Well, we can and do — many do, anyway.

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People seek and find the “indwelling of the Holy Spirit” by repetitive, sacred participation in the Eucharist and the other sacraments, by seeking the Holy Spirit constantly through prayer and prayerful service to others, and by leading “Christ-like lives.”

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So what happened to me?

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First, I had to “surrender.” I had to give up all that was not working for me. All those fun “sins” had to go.

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Read the rest:

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John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom
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